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Vatican: Where could President Trump and Pope Francis do business?

Defying every last scrap of conventional political wisdom, Donald Trump stunned the world Tuesday night by capturing the American presidency.

Given the role the United States plays on the global stage, actors all over the world right now are scrambling to figure out what Trump’s victory means about the direction America is taking, and how best to react.

One of those actors, of course, will be the Vatican.

To use the categories made famous by Joseph Nye, the Vatican is the world’s most important “soft power,” the only major world religion which has at its core a sovereign state with its own diplomatic corps; the United States, with military expenditures exceeding all other nations combined, is the planet’s most important “hard power.”

Inevitably, therefore, the relationship between these two players is important, and this morning, personnel in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, which has primary responsibility for foreign policy, are undoubtedly trying like mad to get a read on where things stand.

To be honest, at first blush the stars don’t seem aligned for an auspicious relationship between the current administration in Rome and the incoming one in Washington.

Never before in American history, for instance, has a President-elect been directly criticized by a sitting pontiff during the primary campaign. Back in February, of course, as Pope Francis was returning from his trip to Mexico, featuring a stop at the US/Mexico border, he was asked by a reporter aboard the papal plane what he made of a politician who wanted to build a wall along that border.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said. “This is not the gospel.”

Granted, Francis nuanced his response by saying he was taking the reporter’s description of Trump’s position at face value. Granted, too, Trump’s initially irascible response quickly softened as he insisted the pope had been taken out of context.

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